Resistance, without calls in Kashmir


SRINAGAR, SEPTEMBER 7: Residents are resisting attempts by authorities to show some signs of normality returning to Kashmir, a month after the Centre locked the Valley down, Reuters reported on Thursday.
Despite a partial relaxation, many students are boycotting classes, shopkeepers are not opening up and public and private sector employees are not turning up for work, in informal action aimed at protesting against the Centre, according to interviews with 7 Government officials and dozens of Valley residents.
“For us, our identity is at stake and its safeguarding is our priority,” said Shabir Ahmad, a shopkeeper from the old quarter of Srinagar. “Let them restore it and we will restart our businesses.”
The civil disobedience has sprung up alongside small but regular protests by stone-throwing crowds that have been quickly quashed by security forces with tear gas and pellet guns.
In previous phases of protests in Kashmir, separatist groups would issue official calls for shutdowns and protests.
This time, however, separatist leaders ~ who either want independence for Kashmir or support joining Pakistan ~ have been detained alongside mainstream politicians, including 3 former Chief Ministers and hundreds of other civil society leaders.
In posters across Srinagar, which began appearing in late August, shopkeepers have been asked to only open late in the evenings and early in the mornings to enable residents to buy essentials.
Despite security forces asking the owners to return to normal opening hours, many have refused.
“We were opening shops in the evenings for people,” said Mohammad Ayub, a Srinagar shopkeeper. “The troops tell us either to open the shops for the full day or not open in the evenings.”
Rohit Kansal, the official spokesman for the Jammu & Kashmir Government, accused “anti-national” forces of preventing shops from opening. “Security forces have taken note of it,” he said on Thursday.
Attendance in major Government offices in Srinagar has been about 50% and substantially lower in the smaller, subordinate offices, a state Government official said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
At an office of the state Housing & Urban Development Department in western Srinagar, only 30 of the about 300 employees were in attendance on most days, another official said.
“Only those who live nearby report to the office. The others come in once in a while,” the official said.
Government workers employed to tend Srinagar’s Dal Lake have not turned up for work in several weeks, officials said, and the water’s surface has become clogged with weeds.
Many schools are empty.
“How can I send my children to school? There is a clampdown and we are concerned for the safety of our wards,” said Javed Ahmad, a Srinagar parent.
Kansal said that 4,000 schools in Kashmir were functioning, and that attendance was improving, although it remained low in some areas.
The shutdown and restrictions are having an impact across all areas of society.
With tourists avoiding the region, hotel owners say occupancy rates are close to zero.
Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid mosque has been closed for a month.
Kashmir’s postal service is heavily disrupted, and online retailers, including Amazon, say their operations in Jammu & Kashmir remain suspended.